A downtown lawyer writes:
I recently had reason to look at the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 and didn’t notice any minimum fine provisions, which seems odd (to me) given the heightened importance that the MOE places on the SDWA compared to the EPA (which of course has minimum fines). I’m interested in the rationale for this lack of minimum fines in the SDWA (or did I miss something?). Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Minimum fines were a relatively late addition to the EPA, and are reserved for particularly serious offences, such as those dealing with actual pollution causing an adverse affect, or hazardous waste. Historically, these offences have often been committed to save money, and have frequently had significant adverse effects on people or the environment. This is rarely the case for offences under the SDWA, especially in publicly managed drinking water systems.
I am not aware of any evidence that minimum fines actually improve environmental compliance. In addition, I think that minimum fines would be particularly inappropriate in dealing with municipalities, almost all of whom already provided safe water before the Walkerton disaster.